Saturday, February 22, 2014

Caramoan Islands

Summer is always the best time to do a road trip even though the weather is hot, doing a lot of things under the sun is definitely agreeable unlike during the rainy season, fun is so limited. Summer is also the time of the year when the sea is calm and the sky is clear...the perfect season for island hopping! And this time the point of interest...the Caramoan Islands!

The Caramoan Islands is located in Camarines Sur of Bicol Region, the group of islands are isolated from the mainland of Camarines Sur that is why it's been tagged as the Secret Paradise of the Philippines. The original name of Caramoan was Gota de Leche as named by Dutch merchants who were trading with the natives in the early times and the name was given due to the milk-like droplets stalagmites present in the port. Later Spaniards named the place "Caramoan" derived from "carahan", type of sea turtles which  were frequently seen on the shores at that time.

The travel from Naga City to Sabang Port is only an hour and a half, and since we brought our vehicle we had to find a safe place to park before going to Giujalo Port which is the gateway to Caramoan Islands. The boat ride was not really comfortable, it was overloaded and getting in and out of the boat was a struggle. We arrived at the port after an hour, and went to the house where we'll stay, there are many resorts in Guijalo which accommodates tourists and aside from them,  homestays are getting popular in the island due to the large number of tourists which comes the whole year round. And another thing to consider is that home cooked meals are served and the hospitality of the homeowners will make you feel at home.

After a powerful breakfast, we went to Caramoan Port and began our voyage onto the waters of the Philippine Sea.  It was a clear day! The blue horizon reflects on the clear ocean and the green island with white sand beaches are like adornments to the beautiful gift of nature. I saw different islets as our boat passed by, islets of different shapes, sizes and names. And I wondered how the people of Caramoan can memorize all their names when they almost all looked alike, but one thing is for sure they are visually charming and suitable for a painting.

There are so many things to do in Caramoan for those who seek for adventures, you can go scuba diving, rock climbing, kayaking, snorkeling, sea-paddling, spelunking or if you are not into these "ing" kind of activities you can just sit and whistle while watching the clouds pass by, take pictures and feel the cool breeze and fresh air. How is cool is that?

We stopped at Minalahos Island for lunch. It is a very rare to see islands overlapping each other   and it was like I am being watched over by these huge karst in different forms. The soft sands tickled my barefoot  while walking on the shoreline while the moving air blows my hair onto my face... fresh air, you can never get enough of it in the metropolis. The environment was very quiet and all I can hear were the waves which moves freely back and forth along the shore. I can stay the whole day in this island but we have more places to go that we need to finish  before the sun sets. And so I must leave Minalahos Island and wander to other nearby islands.

Before we end our island hopping,  we stopped by at Barangay Tabgon, this charming little place is one of the barangays in Caramoan and is relatively far from the group of islands, the streets are paved and clean, in which every zones are adorned with bamboo fences painted with different colors and beautiful gardens in their yards.  And because Tabgon is often visited by tourists the locals maintains its cleanliness through the cash donations of tourists and the help local government. What is interesting about this place is the grotto of the 26-foot statue of Our Lady of Peace on top of Mt. Caglago. A stairway to heaven I must say for the 524-steps leading to the shrine, it's not really exhausting I swear when you know that someone is up there to inspire you and will give you more strength to reach the peak and admire the glory of the natural world.

After that, challenging ascent I took a long deep breath and slowly turned around and there I saw the indescribable bird's-eye view of heaven and earth! Isn't this breathtaking expanse praiseworthy enough to soothe my aching muscles? It is!

Before I end, I'd like to commend the kind locals of Barangay Tabgon who were very accommodating and amiable.  Fishing, farming and weaving hats and baskets are their main livelihood industries. Yes, they live a simple life, they don't have much of the material comforts like most of us are enjoying compared to their treasured basic possessions but one thing I envy about them is that they are so furnished with Mother Nature that are good enough to sustain their beings. Fresh air to breath, spring water to drink, bodies of water to fish, lush forests and vegetation, and away from the chaotic material world,  what else will they ask for? I guess that is all we need to live.

By land.
1. If you're travelling by land from Manila, there are buses bound for Naga City, Camarines Sur in Araneta, Cubao bus terminal. Travel time from Cubao to Naga City is approximately 6-7 hours.
2. From Naga City bus terminal, take a van going to Sabang Port bound for Caramoan Giujalo port.

By air.
1. Take a flight going to Naga City and take a taxi going to the van terminal beside SM Naga.
2. Take a van going to Sabang port.

NOTE: The last ferry trip going to Caramoan Giujalo port is 11 AM so be sure you'll get to Sabang Port before the said time.
Travel time from Naga City to Sabang Port is 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Travel time from Sabang port to Giujalo port is 1 hour and 45 minutes.

By the way, if you're planning to go to Caramoan, I recommend Residencia de Salvacion homestay, they have clean air conditioned rooms, good food and spacious garden.
Contact nos. +63-939-310-1135 and +63-917-371-2143. 

Thank you for reading.